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SWEET BRIAR COLLEGE 













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Published by the students of Sweet Briar College in Virginia. 
All works remain the property of the author or artist. 

Copyright 2008. 

Printed by PIP Printing, Inc., Lynchburg, Virginia. 



Fall 2008 



Editor-in-Chief 

Julia Patt '09 



Art Editor 

Carolanne Bonanno '09 



Layout Editor 

Jessica Baker '09 



Managing Editor 

Katy Johnstone ' 10 



Business Officer 

Katherine Beach '09 



Staff 

Katarina Allen ' 1 2 Heather McTague ' 1 1 

Hannah Clark '12 Maggie Mae Nase '10 

Carina Finn '10 PJ Peek '12 

Jessica Joiner ' 1 1 Lauren Shoff ' 1 1 

Deborah Taylor '09 



Faculty 



Carrie Brown 
John Gregory Brown 



John Casteen 
David Griffith 



Contributors 

Jessica Baker 

Katherine Beach 

Katie Bird 

Carolanne Bonanno 

Jadrienne Brown 

Laura Cromwell 

Caity Gladstone 

Virginia Lightfoot 

Reda Masincup 

Julia Patt 

Deborah Taylor 

Elizabeth Zuckerman 



Lette-rirQ^ tke^ '^(^tor 



Dear Reader, 

I AM PLEASED to present this fall issue of Red Clay. Unlike our campus- 
wide spring publication, this volume was conceived with a specific 
purpose: to highlight senior work in Creative Writing and Studio 
Art. Our contributors have been working hard for the past three 
years, growing to understand their respective media, and we would 
like to celebrate their achievements here. 

On such a busy campus, it is easy to overlook events, especially 
those not relating to our own endeavors. I would like to direct your 
attention to the culminating events for the arts throughout the 
year, including the Senior Theatre Productions on December 5 & 
6 and April 17 & 18, the Senior Dance Concert on February 14 & 
15, and the Senior Art Show opening on April 17. 

This issue has been a brainchild of the Red Clay staff for some 
time and we are excited to present you with this final product. How- 
evr, its successful completion would not have been possible without 
the kindness of the following people: Kevin Morrissey and Molly 
Minturn of Virginia Quarterly Review, Elizabeth Patt, Kelly Clark, 
and Cheryl Seaver. 

As a final note, our staff would like to dedicate this issue to Pro- 
fessor Karl Tamburr. He was a great supporter of the arts at Sweet 
Briar in addition to being a talented educator. His enthusiasm and 
dedication will not be forgotten. 

Warmly, 
Julia Patt 
Editor-in-Chief 2008-2009 



For Karl Tamhurr 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/redclay2008unse 



Shantih 



Right now, the world is a glass bowl of lemonade with no 
lemonade in it. Just the leftover, already-melting ice. And us. 

The walls of the bowl are abstract until we imagine them 
- confirm them - and then we whisper, murmur, rumble, 

breathe and the clouds wall up around us. Something 
intangibly real disappears like blue mountains in monochrome 
fog, veiled by condensation. 

Did we even notice as we built our new reality of ice? 

We took our bold and selfish chances, now 

we cling to ice as it trickles into 

The fog will bring no rain, but the melting ice doesn't 
need rain. We are already worried about drowning when it's 
gone. Will the water turn gray like the fog? Will the walls? They 
turn more solid with each word. 

Reality is shrouded in gray static. 

Have you noticed yet? 

This world is silent but for our uncertain drone. The ice 
makes no sound in its slow desertion. The fog makes no sound in 
its swift consumption. 

Is the silence like holding your breath in a tunnel, when 
you are waiting for clarity and all you can hear is your own heart? 
Is it like that pause, that stillness, when the world crouches down 
in that moment before - 

The sun interrupts our drowning and its light grazes us 
from above the veiled mountains. 

We see: 

The ice is too inconstant, the fog too liquid. 

Our chances and our choices are too careless. 

The walls are never real except to us who believe it. 



]^e.4_ (^ti^tj 3 



Red Dress 



You untie the red dress and push 

against the strings that held you in. 

As you start to pull it up 

over your head, you name the thick 

slow feeling that you're wading through. 

As you repeat it to yourself, 

you choke inside the dark 

tunnel of fabric, you close your eyes 

against the burn of tears that run down 

your cheeks like bad liquor runs down 

your throat. This is the cry 

of one who has bottled up the ocean 

without realizing it. You pull the dress 

off and force your eyes to open 

to florescent bathroom lights 

that burn as much as tears do. Breathe, 

Breathe, stop shaking and stand, 
you command yourself, breathe 
and hang the red dress back up and cover it 
in plastic so you cannot smell the perfume 
that reminds you of kisses given, 
and received, while dancing. Breathe 
and forget it, dress in old, loose cotton, 
wash the burn away with saltless water, 
gather up your burden, and unlock the door. 



4 %t^ C'ii^x^ 



The Tea Bazaar 



A man with a cowboy hat 
serves 

"Relaxation Sensation" 
with a plate of 

goat cheese, 
pita, 
and dried fig. 

A red tea 
comes with dessert: 
"Bloodbath" 

in a white pot, 
poured into porcelain 

ornamented 
with captured 

blue dragons. 

A wall of mirrors reflects 
images of the godciess 
Durga 

in miniature, 
gazing 
from the shelves on 

the opposite 
wall, 
guarding the blue god Shiva 

the Destroyer 
and his second wife, Parvati, 

ivory on her 
lotus. 
The Virgin Mary hangs over them all, 
deified in India, but 

still 
just a mother here. 

A sitar player sits on pillows in the front. 



J^e.{{ &t(^u 



wearing a bald eagle on his 
blue tee-shirt. 
Four scrolled samurai 

hang, 
backdrop to the scene. 

One carries on his back 
his crazed horse, the warrior's face 
infuriated 

with determination 
as the samurai at the 

top 
rides his gray horse 

across 

the sky. 

Above the painted clouds we see 

the birds: 
a thousand origami cranes hang 
waiting for a wish 
and faith 
in a Japanese legend. 

Looking 

down, 

I read the words, 
inverted on the table. 
They asked 

whether we believe in "god" 
and we laughed and laughed and laughed 
endlessly 

into the night, and I wonder 
which one of us 

drew, above those words, 
the all-seeing eye. 



6 ^e<( C^tfi.ti 



Betelgeuse 



All day long I hear blood-curdling shrieks. My caricature tent is 
set up next to the Sheikra, the newest, most vicious addition to 
the Busch Gardens roller coasters. The tent's nothing big; just a 
lilac umbrella with an easel underneath. But from my perch on my 
stool, 1 can see each round of screaming victims defying death on 
the big red monster. 1 get kicks out of telling my customers to watch 
out for rogue pelicans while they're up there, that they're notorious 
for escaping from the Africa reserve on the other side of the park. 
Most of them understand that it's a joke, but 1 love the gullible ones 
who look at me in shock. 

That's why 1 love this job — 1 see all sorts of people. 1 enjoy 
sorting them into categories as 1 watch them walk by: the harried 
couples juggling four kids and the various over-sized toys they won, 
the teenagers who are sopping wet from the flume ride, the Asian 
girls who wear tight, shiny pants with bangs so long I can barely see 
their eyes, the black girls with their beautiful smiles and four-inch 
heels (which 1 will never understand), the young white guys who 
force themselves on the scariest rides to impress the girls, and the 
Latinas whose thick hair and curves I envy. 

While I draw my customers, I create a self-portrait in my mind 
using their features; a self-portrait of an ideal me. I envision my 
hair as strawberry blonde, not the dingy, mousy brown it is now. 
And those Latinas— they have the most beautiful skin. 1 can spend 
a week in Cancun yet come away with nothing more than third- 
degree burns. Last weekend, I was filling in a girl's eyes that were a 
bluish-purple, and 1 wished more than anything that I could have 
eyes like hers. Maybe I can find contacts like that. 

A pigeon flutters down beside my easel and starts picking at 
the popcorn remnants left behind by my last customer. Out of 



^e<( 6iA.M 



boredom, I start sketching the little bird. It turns into a drawing of 
me throwing bread crumbs to a pigeon, but you'd never know it was 
me looking at it. I gave myself blonde curls, blue eyes, and actual 
breasts. This is the me of today. 

I am shading indigo into the outside of my pupils when I 
notice a clump of shadows standing behind me. They're talking 
to one another, something about one of them losing a bet and 
they promised something or other. 1 wipe my hands on my smock, 
turn around and flash my friendliest smile and say, "Hi boys. Do 
you want a caricature?" They all look like they're in college, about 
my age. There are five of them, and the one on the right is being 
nudged forward. He begrudgingly scuffles over and thunks down 
onto the stool. "So I take it you're the one who lost the bet?" I ask 
with a smirk. 

He sighs, looks up at me from under raised eyebrows, and 
says, "Yeah. Turns out emus do bite if you stick your finger in their 
cage." Now I know what to draw him as. The black tip sways under 
my grip with the slightest movement, creating his long face and 
super-straight nose. I dab in his freckles, but kindly leave out the 
peeling sunburn on the tip of his nose. His obvious Irish heritage 
is shining through. Once I finish flicking out the waves of his hair, 
I start on the curves of his new body. Finally, I get to the colors— a 
bit of green with some light brown for the eyes and auburn for 
his hair. He grows suspicious after I spend a lot of time with the 
yellow, especially with his friends cackling behind me. My palms are 
sweating under the hot Tampa sun, but I don't think the heat has 
anything to do with it. 

Finally, I motion him over. As soon as he lays his eyes on it, 
he lowers his head— he only thinks he can hide his smile from me. 
There he sees himself as Big Bird, pointing a feathered finger at 



8 ;^e<( Ui\.ij 



a "Don't Feed the Birds" sign. "Great. Now you know I'm never 
gonna live this down, right?" 

1 just giggle and walk him over to the register. "Twenty-two 
fifty. Would you like a tube to put it in?" He nods as he rummages 
through his wallet. "Have a great day at Busch Gardens. Come back 
and see us. Oh, and watch out for Ernie," I say. 

"Who's Ernie?" he asks with a raised eyebrow. 

"Oh, he's just the escape-artist pelican over in Africa. He has a 
thing for tall guys with red hair," I lie, totally doubting that pelicans 
can even see color. 

"Fantastic," he mutters. "Well, thanks anyway." With that, 
Big Bird and his friends melt into the throng. But what Big Bird 
doesn't know is that while he was fidgeting with his wallet, I snuck 
my name and number into the tube. A bit brazen even for me, but 
Ernie and I have a fetish for the same things. 

Daryl's chest is heaving up beneath me while I stare into the inky 
sky. It's our second date, two weeks after the Big Bird incident. 
He tells me I'm the first person to make him laugh at himself so 
hard. I tell him that I want to know about the stars, which is why 
we are lying on our backs in his backyard hammock, gazing up into 
the oblivion of white-hot sparkles. My head is nestled in the crook 
of his shoulder, and I have his arms pulled around me, his hands 
politely avoiding my tiny breasts. "That's Betelgeuse," he says softly, 
pointing at Orion's left hand. "It's a red supergiant and is the ninth 
brightest star in the sky." I stare at it so hard I think I can see it 
squiggling around in little zigzags, like it so desperately wants to 
escape the confinement of the left hand. 

Daryl is a self-professed science geek, with an obsession with 
astronomy. But, as he says, "the big bucks don't come from laying in 
a hammock all night." So, he's using his nerdiness to get into med 



J^e({ &Utj 9 



school; he wants to be an optometrist. In his opinion, he might 
as well take care of the human telescopes if he can't make a living 
using a real one. "Now Antares, that's the..." he starts, but I force 
his hand back down around me, preventing him from pointing at 
another star. 

"Just listen to the night breathe," 1 whisper, and close my eyes, 
searching for his heartbeat underneath his T-shirt. So we lay there, 
his spincily fingers untangling my hair and twisting it around his 
knuckles. The gentle tugging lulls me into an almost-asleep state, 
just conscious enough to still feel the rhythm of his breathing. 
A caricature of a doctor with oversized spectacles peering into a 
microscope flits across my eyelids, and I think I will give the doctor 
freckles. 

It's four in the morning, and I'm sitting at my lopsided kitchen 
table, stirring a mug of citrus tea. The steam smothers my face, like 
it's a glove trying to melt my features. My other hand is holding 
a purple pen, and I'm retracing a simple shamrock over and over 
again on the corner of the paper towel the mug is sitting on. I 
taste the tea, and grimace. I've never particularly liked citrus, but it 
was next in the pack of exotic teas my mother had given me for my 
birthday last week. Mint, raspberry, even cinnamon— I've liked all of 
them so far. But not citrus. I shove the mug a few inches away from 
me, but keep the paper towel, my pen easily following the groove of 
the purple lines. 

It has been a year and a half since I drew his first caricature and 
sketched my way into his life. The ring sure is pretty. One and a half 
carats, in a heart shape on a white gold band. He says he'll be able 
to get out of debt again once he graduates from Hopkins. I hadn't 
even taken him ring shopping, he just picked what he thought I 
would like. "Eileen," he said, "it was the one with the most curves." 



10 ^e^ &l^vj 



He looked so happy, so utterly child-like, kneeling there clasping 
my hands. I'm happy too— he's wonderful. And a doctor. Well, he 
will be, anyway. 

What I can't tell him is that the ring feels wrong on my hand 
while I draw. The strange, awkward weight of it never goes away. My 
fingers don't close around my ink pens they way they used to, like 
there's a pebble wedged between them, creating an uncomfortable 
gap. I should think an engagement ring would be the most precious 
thing to wear, and to wear at all times. But I can't wear it to draw. 

I'm not really a spiritual person. I pray every now and then, but 
I find sketching to be the most cathartic. I'm not sure if I should 
ask God about the ring, if it doesn't feel right for a "reason." Mom 
always says He has an answer to everything, and she and Dad dragged 
me to St. Francis every Sunday when I was young. I got forced into 
CCD classes, and even had to wear an itchy white dress for my First 
Communion. I asked her why I had to wear white and look pretty, 
and she said it's because we have to be polite if we want God to 
answer our prayers. I was too little to question her authority, and 
she always seemed like she was right. But Mom doesn't know that 
I'm not a tea drinker. 

Suddenly, the kitchen feels stifling, so I get up and shuffle 
across the pearly linoleum to the back porch. I slide the glass door 
open as quietly as possible, trying not to wake Daryl in our room 
on the other side of our apartment. We have two dark green plastic 
lounge chairs on our little balcony. We're on the fourth floor, so 
I feel sufficiently separated from the ground below. I lay down on 
one of the chairs, instantly feeling it stick to my moist skin. One 
of my many sketchbooks is sitting on the wavy-glass topped table 
between the chairs. I guess I left it out here yesterday. My skin stings 
as I de-stick my legs from the chair and prop them up on the railing, 
resting my pad against them. I try to draw Daryl's first caricature. 



;te^6Ui; 11 



the one of Big Bird, exactly as I drew it before. His face comes 
naturally to me, and the big, feathery body follows. But when I'm 
done, it doesn't look right. It's not because it's in black and white 
this time, or because his hair is cropped short now. I just can't 
picture him as Big Bird anymore. 

Disgusted, I toss the sketchbook back onto the table and cross 
my ankles. The Baltimore smell of gasoline and bay water drifts past 
my nose, and I yearn for the perpetual Florida smell of sunscreen 
mixed with oranges. Daryl promises that we can go back there for 
our honeymoon. I think I want to go to Fort Myers, right on Estero 
Boulevard. The back deck of the Blue Coconut is one of my favorite 
places to draw the ocean. I wonder if Dani still works the bar. 

Daryl still has three more years until he can officially go by Dr. 
Jannigan. Three more years of the smog, the sirens, the ghettos. 
Daryl makes me promise to walk home with someone from Lila's, 
the restaurant where I serve. So far, selling my art isn't cutting it. 
But that's fine with me, since I paint for myself anyway. 

The sky is bright tonight. The stars are glittering their little 
hearts out, trying their best to shine through the haze. Through 
my crossed feet, I see Betelgeuse. After a few seconds of staring, he 
starts swerving around like a frantic firefly, but he can't break away 
from Orion's clutches. Through the sliding door, I hear five muffled 
chimes of our grandfather clock. I look at Betelgeuse, who seems 
to be winking at me, telling me it's okay to go. I grip the armrests 
of the lounge chair and hoist myself up. My ring slips a little, and I 
straighten it, allowing my eyes to linger on the way it shimmers in 
the moonlight. For just a second, it doesn't feel as heavy. 

I tiptoe back through the kitchen, dump the cold tea and put 
the mug in the sink. I fold the paper towel and stuff it in the pocket 
of my robe. In our room, Daryl is sound asleep, just as I left him. 
I kick off my slippers and sling my robe over the recliner. Quietly, 



12^e<(6ZA.M 



my body sinks into the mattress and my legs stretch out, feeling the 
cool sheets swirl around them. Blankly, I stare at the ceiling for a 
few moments, wishing we had a skylight. My eyes wander to Daryl, 
and I reach a hand out to stroke his bare shoulders. I stop, not 
wanting to wake him. Instead, I roll onto my side with my hands 
clasped in front of my face, my right pinkie tracing the outline of 
the ring. I breathe a deep sigh, and I almost want to pray. 



J^C^Crtl^iJ 13 



I Can Tell it is Going to Rain 



I can tell it is going to rain 

because the bamboo across the road 

is waving, rustling, 

and my hair waves back. 

Will you lie in the grass with your eyes closed, 

smiling at the dark sky, 

and wait to feel the cloud shadows cover you? 

Will you walk in the wind with me, 

waiting for the drops to fall 

like gentle kisses on our heads? 



14 ^e<( Ul^^^ 



VirainifK Liaktfoot 
For Allanah 



You are waiting for spring, 

for the caterpillars 

that will become butterflies. 

You want to witness that magic, 

the sudden appearance of wings, 

the change that cannot happen in a moment, 

but seems to. 

Little Colin Craven girl, 

practicing in secret, 

waiting to surprise us all. 

The flowers hold their breath 

as you step, wobble, stand up tall, step again. 

The butterflies touch their wings together 

in silent applause, slowly, 

as if sharing your struggle and concentration. 

The warmer weather makes you grow, 

and in the secret garcien of your mind, 

you find the will to walk. 

In your little voice, 
you call, "Mommy." 
And your delicate legs- 
unable to hold you up for seven years, 
still learning to be strong- 
carry you to your mother. 
You hold out your arms like wings 
and smile, 
eager to know independence. 

You fall into her arms, 
hugging, laughing. 

One day, the butterfly will wave and fly away. 



J^e-i^L^Uij 15 



Elusiveness 



I've lost a sentence. 

It whisper-floated out of my hands, 

slipping through the balcony railing 

and dead-leaf swirling down about three floors. 

I don't think it ever touched the ground. 

It was too clever to be trampled on. 

It evaporated, 

escaping a coffee conversation, 

a thrice-rejected novel, 

a bedtime story... 

leaving behind a silence 

that tastes like sweetened condensed milk. 

When a sentence is lost, 

does it try to find its way home? 

Does it wait for someone to find it, 

for its picture to appear on a milk carton somewhere, 

like a missing child? 

Does it envy the silence it allowed, 

a silence that is strong and rich? 

Does the sentence wonder 

if it could have been as strong, 

as rich, if it had decided not to get lost? 

Does it pity the one who lost it, 

who can rarely hold onto her words long enough 

to create a beautiful thing? 



16 ^e<( C-tf^ii 



The More Deceived: chapter one 



Death is no longer new to me. Here in his house, I know him 
better than I ever knew my prince, or my father, or myself. At best 
he is careless, sweeping in new souls to crowd our brown fields 
with the back of his hand; at worst he is brutal, taunting us not 
with hotter fire or sharper aches of hunger but with whispers of 
our lives. He smiles to see tears, as a child might smile at the games 
she plays with her dolls. He is never gentle, but as I do not expect 
gentleness, he can do little to disturb me. One thing I will say for 
him: he is fair. As long as we obey his rules, we know what to expect 
- all of us, from my proud king who walks in armor to hide the 
marks of his death, to the child of two years with plague's black 
boils on his neck and leg, to me, bloated and white from the river's 
ministrations. I did not make a pretty corpse. 

Because there is little he can do to me, he often leaves me to 
myself. I have time to think now, as much time as I could ever 
have wished for. What good does it do me? I can change nothing. I 
can affect nothing for those who still live, and those who are dead 
shy away from me. I think they see in me what they will not face 
in themselves. My thoughts chase each other around in my head. 
I must get them out somehow or go mad again. I must begin to 
speak. 

It is strange, speaking as I wish and of what I want. I am 
accustomed only to think my words, holding them within me so 
that they remain my own. I have seen people betrayed by a careless 
word too many times not to know the value of silence. 

But there is silence here, and it poisons, rusting like iron under 
water. More than this I am forbidden to say. The secrets of Death's 
house cannot even be whispered. This is no difficult task for me. 
I am good at keeping secrets. But I have been silent long enough, 
anci the words I want to speak will betray nothing of this place, or 



^e<( Ut^^j 17 



of those who flit through it hushed and wraithUke with their heads 
cast down. I do not even know if they can hear what I say, or, if 
they could, if they would listen. It is for myself I speak, to hold off 
the poison, and it is of myself that I speak as well, for that is all I 
know. And I think I must start with my own start, with my father 
and mother. 

I knew my father when he was old in years. In his prime he was 
the king's most trusted councilor, but I grew up with the image of 
him as an old man, his back bent by age and his beard turning from 
ruddy brown to white. Yet as if to spite the encroaching promise of 
death, my father moved with a sprightliness more befitting a man 
of twenty than one of sixty, and he prided himself on his young and 
beautiful wife, whom he married when she was sixteen and he was 
nearly three times her age. Her father had been one of the king's 
hirdmen, his great warriors, and I can easily imagine my father's 
ecstasy at marrying so well. The king made my father lord of the 
village of Raskvand at the marriage feast and gave him a seat at the 
table with the other landed men of Denmark. Small wonder that 
he adored my mother. 

My memories of her are more vague, but she was indeed 
beautiful, slightly built and delicately featured with a thick wealth 
of dark brown hair. Her hand always rested lightly on my father's, as 
though she could not quite bring herself to touch him, but he doted 
on her and indulged her endlessly. She complained of back pains 
when I was seven, and my father brought the king's own engineer 
to design a pond below her window, so that she might drift in the 
water whenever it pleased her. He brought a man from Raskvanci 
up to the house and gave him one duty: to keep the pond clean. She 
did not thank my father, and she never went in the pond unless he 
was at the king's court of Elsinore, two days' journey by sleigh from 
the house. 



18 ^e<( C^tix-tj 



I loved her, or at least I thought so then. She was beautiful, and 
my nurse adored her, and she was my mother and so I had to love 
her. But she was distant with me, thinking it enough to kiss my 
forehead and tell me goodnight. She had borne my brother Laertes 
when she was still sixteen and had thought her duty done; she did 
not conceive again for seven years. My existence reminded her that 
she had duties to others, not only to herself, and 1 do not think she 
liked being reminded. Certainly she was more than happy to give 
me to my nurse and see as little of me as she wished. 

She died of a summer fever when I was eight. I had not caught 
it, since I saw her so rarely, but my father took ill as well. They were 
both confined to separate sickbeds, and when my father rose from 
his, my mother had been two days dead. 

He sent for me on the third day after his recovery. My nurse 
combed out my hair and tied a black ribbon into it, but she had 
to send me to my father in a gray dress, for she had not had time 
to finish sewing a black one. My father rarely dressed in anything 
but black - the dignity of being the king's councilor would allow 
him nothing less - and his eyes narrowed as I came into his study. 
I should have bowed my head in respect for my dead mother, but 
instead I looked up and into his eyes. They were cool and remote, 
although I saw something jump in them as he looked me over. I 
was only eight, and had not had time to grow into a great beauty, 
but I had my mother's small bones and dark hair, and I think he 
saw something of her in me. It was only a moment, however, and it 
passed almost before I noticed it. He nodded curtly. "You will do," 
he said, and turned away from me. 

Cold as my reception had been, I felt colder when he turned 
his back. I wanted to go to him and take his hand, but he had never 
concerned himself with me even when my mother lived. With her 
gone, it was clearer than ever that he wanted no part of me. I left 
his study as silently as I could. 



J^^({ &Uvj 19 



Laertes had been sent for when my mother fell ill, but he 
returned from the university in Paris too late to see her buried. He 
came home to Raskvand in green silk, proud and laughing, and I 
was entranced. My father was not. Laertes bowed his head under my 
father's blazing censure, went to my mother's solitary grave in the 
back of the bailey to pay his respects, and then claimed her room 
as his. That stung both my father and me - my mother's memory 
was still bright for my father, and I had wanted Laertes to myself, 
to tell tales of Paris and to tease me, as I'd heard that brothers were 
supposed to do. But at last my father gave in to Laertes' arguments 
that a man needed a room of his own and could not be expected 
to share one with a child of eight years, especially when that child 
was his sister. I was not sure that at fifteen my brother qualified as 
a man, but he was adamant about it, and that seemed to be enough 
for my father. 

In the first week Laertes was back, I spent more time in his 
room than I had in all my life when it had been my mother's. I 
could not stay away. My brother was handsome and fairly crackling 
with life, and he made a much better companion than my silent 
father, who locked himself in his study to grieve in solitude. I had 
few memories of Laertes - he had gone to Paris at twelve years old, 
when I was five - but I could recall him spinning me around and 
laughing, his hands warm and solid around my waist. His was the 
only laugh I remembered, and I haunted him in hopes of hearing 
it again. To his credit, he tolerated me more graciously than others 
might have. He did not lock me out, and if he nurtured my worship 
of him, well, he was fifteen, and I cannot find it in myself to blame 
him. 

Once he even invited me in. At the end of that first week of his 
return, I sat in my room under my nurse's supervision, attempting 
to thread her needles for her, but I dropped needles and thread 
when I heard a knock on the door. It could only be Laertes - my 



20 J^e-({ C^Utj 



father did not seek me out - and when he opened the door and 
stepped over the threshold, 1 left my stool and rushed toward him. 
He caught me in his arms and bore me out of the room. I heard my 
nurse make a sound of protest, but Laertes looked over his shoulder 
and winked at her, and she settled back into her chair. He was 
clever, my brother, and he knew how to make women love him. 

Laertes hurried back to his room, one warning finger over my 
lips and a sly teasing smile on his own. He hardly needed to take 
precautions - it was sheep-shearing time and the house was all 
but deserted - but his signal for silence told me that this was an 
adventure he had planned for the two of us alone. I was giddy with 
excitement. Once we entered, he closed the door and set me down. 
The wooden floor creaked softly under me, and Laertes hushed me. 
Then he kicked off his boots and pulled his tunic over his head. I 
blushed and looked away - his fine linen shirt underneath was all 
but transparent, and I had never seen nakedness before, in man or 
woman. 1 knew that his face and arms were tanned, but I had not 
known until now that all his skin was the color of a young acorn 
just past its green. I could see the color bloom below his shirt. 

He sighed at the look on my face and tugged me over to him. 
"Don't be ridiculous, Ophelia," he said. "Come over here." He 
towed me over to the window, which my father had enlarged so 
that my mother could enjoy her view of her pond and the village 
spreading out below our house, yellow roofs and yellow fields. 
The wooden sill was broad enough for a grown man to sit on, and 
Laertes lifted me onto it. I was still too young to cover my hair, and 
it blew across my face in the wind, baby-fine and brown. "See that 
tree?" he asked, pointing with a slender finger. 

He hardly needed to point - it could not be missed. My mother 
had kept it pruned for some years, but lately she had let it grow 
as it wished. Now the tree loomed up in front of the window, its 
branches twining over the wooden sill as though trying to pull the 



J^e-d^C-Ui^ 11 



dead wood back into the living tree. Its green leaves tickled my face 
and caught at my loose hair. "I see it," I said. 

Laertes let go of me abruptly and stripped himself of even his 
linen shirt, so that when I turned, I looked at his bare chest. I stared, 
and although he had been about to move, he held still and let me 
look. I had never seen such a thing before. When my father called 
in workers to dig the pond or enlarge the window, they had kept 
their shirts on, and I barely looked at myself when I was undressed; 
my nurse simply removed my clothes as though I was a doll. I put 
out my hand and touched his belly. When I felt his muscles move 
beneath my palm, I pulled my hand away. 

He laughed and boosted himself onto the sill. "I'm going 
to teach you a game," he said. "You'll have to keep this a secret, 
Ophelia, but I think this will be fun for you. This is a very fun game 
- the Greatest Game in Denmark. Now, I'm only going to show you 
once. Get down from the sill for a moment. I'll need space." 

I hopped down, glad to have the solid floor under my feet at 
the same time that I missed the wind blowing my hair into tangles. 
I turned around in time to see Laertes swing like a breeze into the 
tree and climb slowly out along one of its branches. My breath came 
hard at the sight. I seized the rim of the sill and pulled myself back 
onto it, flattening my hands on either side of the window frame to 
keep myself upright. My stomach knotted as I looked down on the 
tree and the sky. I felt insubstantial, as though the slightest puff of 
air would trip me and send me falling to earth. 

"Are you watching?" Laertes called to me. He had reached the 
end of the branch, where it suspended itself over the pond. "Watch 
closely now!" 

With a yell, he jumped from the branch and splasheci loudly 
into the pond. 

I screamed anci lurched half a step forward. The world leaned 
under me, and I had to clutch at the window frame to regain my 



UJ^e-^Ui^vj 



balance. The ripples on the pond were fading, wiping clean any 
sign of my brother's passage. I caught at the branches. Where was 
Laertes? Why did he not come back? 

Then with another splash he surfaced, flinging his wet black hair 
out of his face and laughing. I gasped and reached out, as though 
from far above I could touch him and bring him back to safety, but 
he only laughed harder at my stricken face. "Did I frighten you?" he 
called, all caution forgotten. I nodded, beyond speech. "Silly goose, 
there's nothing to be frightened of! It's only water!" 

Laertes swam easily back to the ground. His fine black breeches 
clung to his back and legs as he walked over from the pond to the 
tree and climbed up to where 1 stood, my back against the frame 
of the window. "There's nothing wrong with it," Laertes said. "Just 
jump in. Here, I'll show you again." And before I could say anything 
to stop him, he was rushing along the branch again, and with a 
whoop that I now recognized as glee, he jumped from the branch 
and splashed into the water. 

The day was warm, and my long petticoats were stifling. I waited 
for Laertes to reemerge from the water, and when he did, calling to 
me to try it, I crept out along the sill, grabbing for the nearest tree 
branch, my breath sharp in my throat. 

Laertes was fifteen, and I eight. He had had instructions in 
logic from the French masters, and had been fencing since he was 
ten. He knew that he was not going to fall to his death as long as 
he kept a good grip on the tree, and he had the muscles necessary 
to make the climb along the branch. I had neither of these, and as 
soon as I was dangling one-handed from the branch, unreasonable 
instinct set in. I was convinced in that instant that the branch would 
crack, that I would plummet with it to the ground and smash my 
head open on the earth. I screamed and flailed for the branch with 
my free hand, but my wild swings simply sent me farther from it. 
Fear dimmed my vision until all I could see was a haze of white and 



J?ie^&Ui^23 



green and blue. From far away I could hear Laertes shouting to me 
below, but most of the sounds of my world had condensed to my 
own frightened screams, the creaking of the branch, the swishing of 
the wind, and the musty smell of bark under my frantic fingers. 

In the distance there was a slamming sound, as if a door had 
opened. Laertes abruptly cut off his shouted advice a moment before 
m.y father's hands closed like iron around my waist. He hauled me 
over the sill and into the room, and I collapsed, crying, pressing my 
face against the floor, gasping with relief at his feet. His black robe 
rustled against my hair, and the skin of my palms throbbed from 
the rough bark. 

"Laertes!" My father shouted from the window. "Get in here 

I" 
at once! 

I did not hear my brother's answer, and perhaps there was 
none, for my father angry was not a man to contend with. I raised 
my face, and then quickly looked down again, for as he turned from 
the window he was frightening, his face dark with anger. I sat up 
and calmed my frantic gasps so as not to anger him further. 

Laertes pulled himself in through the window. At once he 
reached for his linen shirt, but my father snatched it out of his 
hands. "Do you, sir, wish to relate to me the particulars of what has 
transpired here?" 

Bare-chested, red-faced, dripping water from his hair and 
shoulders, Laertes mumbled a few words about playing with me. 

"And this 'play,' as you say, necessitates the disrobing of yourself 
and the terrifying of your sister? Is this your drift, young man?" 

"That was not my intention, sir," said Laertes. 

"It was, whatever your intention, the result of your 'play'!" 
bellowed my father. "Shameful, sir. Shameful! Clothe yourself!" He 
flung the linen shirt at Laertes, who pulled it awkwardly over his 
head. 



24 ;^e<( &Utj 



He turned to me then, his face still stormy. "And you, daughter?" 
he said. "Had you not the wit to refuse?" 

I looked over at Laertes. His eyes were fixed on the planks of 
the floor. 1 struggled to find words, but I could not make my mind 
focus on anything but my stinging hands. I looked up at him and 
flinched as our eyes met. He was looking at me as though he had 
never seen me before and wished he had not now. "I am sorry, sir," 
I said. "I did not know to refuse." 

For a moment he only looked at me. I felt myself growing 
smaller under his scrutiny. Then he took my arm and pulled me 
to my feet. "Come with me then," he said, "and I will help you to 
remember for next time." He released me as he left the room, as if 
he could not bear to touch me, and he did not look back. 

I could not match his swift pace as he led me down two flights 
of wooden stairs through the kitchen, where he ignored the cook 
and the kitchen maids and took up a thin switch from a nail on 
the wall. Not a word was spoken until we reached the open bailey, 
deserted for the shearing. It had rained the night before, and the 
ruts from carts and hooves were filled with mud. "I will not have my 
daughter ignorant of basic propriety," he said. "But I will not tear 
your clothes. Bare your back." 

Speechless, I looked up at him. I was utterly bewildered. He 
had never spoken so many words to me all at once, had never so 
much as taken my hand, had certainly never stared at me with such 
stubborn determination. I looked at the switch, at his rigid face, 
and still did not understand. 

"Do as I say!" he thundered, impatient with my silence. I had 
seen him short-tempered before, but never in all my life had I seen 
him so angry. I obeyed instantly, turning from him to unlace with 
clumsy fingers the sides of my dress and slide out of it, to wriggle 
my narrow arms free of the shift and stand motionless, where any 
passerby coming from the wrong direction would see my chest as I 



^e<( &tt^tj 25 



had seen Laertes'. His was lightly colored, 1 supposed from doing 
such things as swimming, but mine had never seen sunlight before, 
and was lily-white. 

I heard my father step up behind me, heard the switch hiss 
through the air, and knew what he was about in the instant before 
the switch was laid across my back. I shrieked in pain and scrambled 
away, heedless that my dress flapped open to my waist, but he came 
after me and struck me with the switch again, bringing me to my 
knees in the mud of the courtyard. I struggled to my feet, and 
another blow fell as I did so; I began to run, but he was quicker 
than me and found me wherever I fled to. At last 1 sank beneath the 
switch and sobbed with pain into the mud. He had never beaten 
me before. He had never taken enough notice of me to beat me, 
and lying in the clammy mud I wished that he might forget me 
again, if this was all that came of his attention. 

Then he stopped. I did not raise my head. I barely noticed he 
had stopped. I gasped for breath, trying not to move. My forehead 
pressed into the mud. "Clothe yourself," said my father. "Then 
return to the house." He was breathing almost as harshly as 1 was. 
I heard his heavy footsteps move slowly away from me. A finger of 
cold wind raced between us. 

1 lay flat in the mud, my back on fire. He was truly distracted 
with anger not to have brought me back in, as he always had an 
eye for appearances. The weather had changed, as it is apt to do 
in Denmark, from warmth to an early-autumn chill that lashed 
through my petticoats and raked across my raw back, stinging its 
way deep into my throat. 

1 heard more footsteps then, wading through the mud, and 1 lay 
still, dreading his return with the switch. When the sounds stopped 
directly in front of me 1 knew that hope was lost. He was back, and 
he would continue to beat me, perhaps until I died - 



26 ^e<( C'tt^.ij 



A voice, the softest voice I had ever heard, said, "Maid, what 
has happened to you?" 

I raised my muddy head. A sUm figure of a man near my 
brother's age, dressed in brown and red with hair the color of old 
honey and large blue eyes, held out a hand to me. I began to lift my 
shoulders from the muck, but I felt the cold air across my naked 
chest and shook my head wildly. 

His eyes darted to my bare shoulders, hardly covered by my 
hair, and he stepped back, closing his eyes pointedly. I got slowly to 
my feet. The linen shift scratched the lashes on my back as I pulled 
it on, and when I reached to lace up my gown, I sucked in my breath 
and had to stop for a moment, my eyes squeezed shut until I could 
breathe easily again. He waited for some time without making a 
sound. When I had finished, I looked up at him. "I'm all right now, 
sir," I said. 

He opened his eyes and crouched down beside me so that our 
eyes were level, balancing on the balls of his feet to avoid getting his 
breeches muddy. "What is your name?" he asked. 

I looked away from him, down at my filthy feet. "Ophelia," I 
said. 

"Ophelia," he repeated. "What happened to you?" 

His eyes were steady on me, but I could neither meet them nor 
tell him the truth. My father had lapsed. He had lost control for a 
brief time, but it might not happen again if I kept silent. There was 
nothing to be gained in telling anyone. "An accident," I said. 

1 could feel him lift his gaze from me. "Where is your father?" 
he asked. "Your mother? Why have they left you out here?" 

"My mother is dead," I said. My shoes were covered in mud. 
"My father - my father is inside." I did not gesture toward the house 
- it hurt my back to raise my arm. My shift lay flush against my skin, 
stuck in place. 



^e<( &Uvj 27 



He took my hand, ignoring the mud that coated my palm. 
The brush of his fingers around mine was unexpected, and my 
eyes darted up to his face. He had his head tipped to one side, 
considering me. "Then you are Polonius' daughter," he said. 

I made no reply. He shrugged and started walking back toward 
the house. As he held my hand, I had no choice but to follow. The 
sudden first step jolted its way down my back and twisted my shift 
against my skin. The cloth would not come free, and I realized with 
a shock that it must be blood that held it in place. I went stiff, 
but he did not notice. "I am Hamlet," he said, and knocked on 
the door. "Your father is the advisor to my father. I have come to 
speak with him about the Norwegian tribute owed us." I did not 
understand; indeed I barely heard his words. 

One of the kitchen maids opened the door and gasped to see 
me filthy from the mud of the bailey. There was no fire laid, not in 
summer, and I could see nothing in the darkness. The warm thick 
smell of baking bread rushed out of the house. "Close that door!" 
snapped the cook from the low counter where she kneaded a lump 
of dough. 

The maid stared for a moment longer, as if the words took time 
to reach her ears. Then she seized me by the wrist and pulled me 
in. I did not let go of Hamlet's hand, and he had to take two quick 
steps to avoid sprawling over the threshold of my father's kitchen. 
The maid hovered around me, asking questions so quickly that I 
could not understand what she said. I shut my eyes and clung to 
Hamlet and would not let him go. He remained as still as I could 
have wished, lightly cradling my hand in his, and sent the maid to 
fetch my nurse. 

She came just as the cook opened the door of the stone oven to 
insert two more pasty loaves. The blast of heat made my nurse wave 
her hand in front of her face. Her eyes had wrinkled up at the heat, 
but the lines around them deepened when she saw me. She called 



28 ^e<( &l(^vj 



me by name and set her wrinkled hands on my shoulders, and I 
knew she would take me away and give me all the simple care she 
was capable of. But she would take me from Hamlet. I gripped his 
hand until my own turned white. 

"Come, now," said my nurse, and she glanced up at him 
nervously. She was a straightforward woman, and she never knew 
what to make of my moods. She did care for me, but I unnerved her 
at times, although she never said as much. 

He caught her look and put his free hand over mine, uncurling 
my fingers. Only at that, at his request, did I let go. 

My nurse carried me away, and in the privacy of my cool room 
eased the shift off my back, pulling carefully where the blood had 
dried. She filled a copper basin with warm water and scrubbed the 
mud out of my hair and wiped the blood from my back. I did not 
cry. I kept my lips tight together and thought of gentle hands and 
eyes the color of a darkening sky. 



J^C({ &Uvj 29 



The Incredible Stereophonic Fruit! 




Diffusion 







i 






m 


mwm^mm^ 



Window 




She's Going Home 




Quirky Little Still Lifl 




PeiRTRAiT OF Artist 




Handout 




Roots 




Wrapped 




The First Step 



"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." The person who 
thought up this cliche clearly never had a chronic illness. He never 
knew the endless cycle. This is merely something chronically ill 
patients, especially Crohn's and Colitis patients, tell themselves; it 
is a lie that makes us feel better. "This pain... my ups and downs... 
they have made me a stronger person. No one else has been through 
what I have been through. No one else has experienced this kind 
of pain and exhaustion. I am stronger." But time and time again 
we find ourselves sick and weak and our lives stop. Nothing else 
exists, just our illness and the doctors and the medicines and the 
possibility of surgery. Friends are supportive at first; they ask how 
we are. They make it a point to stop by our house and try to cheer 
us up, or call and ask how we are. Eventually they stop coming by 
the house. Eventually they stop calling. There's no new answer to 
the question, "How are you?" The answer is definitely not, "I am 
stronger." 

Crohn's Colitis is a digestive disorder, in the large and or small 
intestine. I have Crohn's Colitis in my large intestine, also known 
as the colon. Many of my friends looked at me with surprise when 
I first told them this, and thought for a moment before saying, 
"I thought only men had a colon." Crohn's Colitis is an illness 
categorized as "IBD" or "Irritable Bowel Disease." I believe that 
Crohn's would be high up in the top ten of "Most Embarrassing 
Diseases" if there were such a list. After all, the name of "Irritable 
Bowel Disease" alone is embarrassing enough. My family and even 
my co-workers refer to the bathroom as "my office." I was flipping 
channels a couple of weeks ago and paused for a few minutes on 
a show called ^till Standing. The brother and sister had made a bet, 
and the loser would have to make out with whomever was chosen 
from their yearbook. When the sister's person had been chosen. 



^e<( C^li^^ 41 



she looked up in horror and said, "He's the one with the laminated 
hall pass because of his 'bathroom issues'." Immediately following, 
I exclaimed, a little offended, to my empty dorm room, "Hey! I had 
a laminated hall pass in high school!" 

There were so many times when 1 pulled my hall pass from my 
purse that I wondered if my classmates thought about why I was 
always going to the bathroom, especially if it was my second time 
going in that same 90-minute class. I knew my friends understood 
why, but, of course, I wasn't friends with everyone in all of my 
classes. It was the hardest when a current crush was in one of my 
classes... how could I get up, possibly more than once, and leave for 
10 minutes at a time? He'd think I was a freak. 

Most people don't realize what Crohn's entails. It's not just 
running to the bathroom; many Crohn's patients lose blood in 
their stool, causing them to be constantly anemic. Anemia causes 
unwavering fatigue, to the point that, when extremely anemic, it's 
difficult to lift an arm let alone get up to walk the ten to fifteen 
steps -to the bathroom. A normal "hemoglobin" level, the measure 
of iron in your blood, is 12; I'm doing pretty well if my hemoglobin 
is over 10, in part because I'm allergic to oral iron so I can't take 
supplements like most people. If I need iron, I get either a blood 
transfusion or an iron infusion. Blood transfusions are terrifying. 
Not because the blood is cold and therefore hurts while it runs 
into my 98.6-degree body, but because after I've had so many 
transfusions that I start to approximate the number ("Oh, I've 
had about 9 or so units of blood"), I can't help but think of how 
my chances keep increasing that perhaps this unit of blood wasn't 
tested properly. This unit of blood might be one of the few that 
slipped through with HIV or Hepatitis, or one of the dozens of 
other blood transmitted diseases. Or perhaps they labeled it "O" 
Positive, but it's really "AB." 



42 ^e^ Ui^ij 



IBD patients get malnourished very easily. I was forced to pack 
up and go home after only two and a half months of college because 
of malnutrition. One month after I got home I received treatment 
for my malnourishment. It was the second time I'd ever had a "PICC 
line" which is a semi-permanent IV. To put in the IV they had to 
force a catheter up my vein into a main artery that led to my heart. 
After a few days in the hospital, I went home, and each night my 
Mom would prepare the bag my home health care company would 
deliver that was filled with nutrition as well as fat so I would gain 
weight. We had to hook it up through a portable IV pump, then 
hold down a button until the fluid came to the end of the tube. I 
would shoot my catheter with saline to open the line then swipe 
the end with an alcohol swab and then hook myself up and start 
the pre-set pump. Every night I would be hooked up from around 
7pm to 7am, adjusting myself in bed so the tube wouldn't tangle 
and set off the very sensitive and obnoxious pump alarm. The first 
time I had a PICC line was my junior year of high school; I had it in 
for about 2 and a half weeks. When I had it the second time, after 
coming home from Sweet Briar, I had it in for three months. It was 
pulled out the day after my nineteenth birthday. That was the best 
birthday gift I've ever received. 

Perhaps I am stronger. Just a little. I am more determined. I 
won't let Crohn's beat me. This illness is not going to stand in 
my way. Big, scary things to other people are minor occurrences to 
me: doctors' visits, needles, hospital visits, IV's, blood tests, minor 
surgeries. But how many times does it take to weaken me? How 
many more times can I leave school and my friends and my job just 
to live on the couch flipping channels and watching reruns of The 
Price Is Right before I just don't want to get up and keep going? "If 
it doesn't kill me, it will make me stronger.... if it doesn't kill me, 
it will make me stronger...." If I keep repeating it to myself over 
and over, if I make it a mantra, it will be true. It will be true until 



J^i_C^Utj^3 



that next flare up. That next moment when I reahze I'm too sick 
to continue. That I have to give up and go into hiding until I try 
another two or three medicines ("It was just approved by the FDA! 
It's the best medicine out there right now!"). Then, slowly, I will 
get back on my feet. I will start to look for another job. I will get 
my school credits back in order. I will continue on just as everyone 
else, only a year or so behind them. I will reacquaint myself with 
my friends; or I will find new friends. I will try not to think about 
those friends who will never be the same around me. No matter 
how well I become, certain friends will continue to think of me as 
sick. A friend who once called herself my best friend will continue 
to exclude me from get-togethers, despite continuous efforts on my 
part to reconnect. The few times we speak she will again pretend 
that everything is the same and that she thinks no differently of me 
now than she did when we were having "confession sessions" at 
sleepovers and making up code names for guys we liked. 

When I was a senior in high school, I missed the last two and 
half months before graduation. I finished all of my schoolwork 
at home and my parents dropped it off at school so that I would 
graduate on time. There were only a couple of school events I 
attended after that. One was Senior Banquet, and the other was 
Graduation. At Senior Banquet I sat with a group of my close 
friends, and it was almost as if nothing had changed. About halfway 
through the night I got up and went into the bathroom. There 1 
overheard a conversation between three girls who were discussing 
their futures. They were talking about how the summer was going 
to be great, and made plans to hang out with each other. I sat, 
hidden in the fancy hotel stall, as the three talked of the years to 
come and how they would be such good friends through college 
and beyond. I laughed to myself cynically, thinking, "By the time 
next summer comes along, each one of those girls will have their 
own lives. They'll barely know each other anymore." Two weeks 



44 J^e.^ &l(K^vj 



later, on Graduation day, I realized that my friends and I already 
had our own lives. Graduation was disappointing. Instead of sitting 
in my correct place in alphabetical order, I sat in the very last seat, 
next to the students who had arrived too late to get in formation... 
just in case I needed to get out easily to use the bathroom. After the 
final graduation cap was located from our ecstatic throw, and my 
former classmates filed off the floor of the Richmond Segal Center, 
I watched everyone rush around to take pictures with friends and 
family. Most of my friends were crying and babbling on about how 
much they'd miss everyone. I didn't feel anything. I was hungry, 
tired, and I had to go to the bathroom, but I didn't feel like crying. 
I felt like I had already graduated two and a half months ago. I had 
already distanced myself from everyone, and started my new life. 

How does this make me stronger? I appreciate everything now. 
I don't take things for granted. But this doesn't make me stronger. 
It makes me understanding and mindful and conscious but not 
stronger, not physically stronger or emotionally stronger. Yes, I can 
drag myself up each go-'round and get started with my life again, 
but that doesn't make it any easier. Though maybe being stronger 
doesn't mean it will be easier. Perhaps it's all a matter of any given 
person's definition of 'stronger.' Maybe stronger means that I just 
keep going, even though I know what it will be like; what I have to 
go through all over again. I may not answer, "I am stronger," but I 
know that I will get up and take that first step, even if that first step 
must be repeated thousands of times. 



^e<( &tt^vj 45 



$1.05 Guardian Angel 



Cowboy buys her a gold guardian 
Each day until discharge 

Tobacco yellow smell 

Crucifix ink — v 

For a $1.05 

She spreads her wings 

MADE IN CHINA 
On her wings 

Do Communist countries have 
Guardian angels? 

The angel is his with a ka-ching 

"Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings" 

Do cash-register bells count? 

If so, I've been giving out wings all day for 
Candy bars and People Magazines 

Cowboy doesn't come back here anymore. 



46 ^e<( UiMj 



Born to Bitter 



He is a bitter, bitter, bitter man. Bitter because he is sick, bitter 
because he is old, bitter because he is alone and none of his many 
children desire to be in his presence. 

No one is born knowing who they will one day become. Rich 
man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, 
wanderer, maybe even Casanova. No one is aware of the forces that 
will govern their lives. In the case of William Tanner, a beautiful 
mulatto baby, no one, including his parents, gave much thought to 
who or what he'd one day be. He was just another Negro child born 
in a small southern town, conceived partly in love, partly in lust, 
and partly in naive uncertainty. 

Amaymon is one of the most discreet princes of the Kingdom 
of Hell. He is unlike other demons; he is most beautiful and 
unassuming, like thistle or butterfly weed or other delicate-looking 
weeds, blending easily with flowers. Often he is mistaken for a 
flower and is placed in a vase to beautify a table or he is left to reign 
amidst lookalikes. He abides in fields, in parks, and in homes, but 
mostly in front of churches. He is aware of everyone who enters 
and he awaits the one carrying his scent, the one most innocently 
dressed, and enters with them. He is behind every smiling face 
that speaks destructive, demeaning, and degrading words. He is 
entwined in the colorful bouquets of a husband's unfaithfulness. 
He weaves himself like a serpent, like ivy, around the limbs of trees 
and listens to secret conversations. He freely roams in the light of 
the noonday sun, watching children play naughty little games such 
as tying kittens in bags and throwing them into the river, pulling 
the ears of puppies, stealing candy, or lying. When they laugh, he 
laughs loudly with them and they think it's an echo. He circles full 
romantic moons like a mist, hiding the man in the moon, while 
hovering above young lovers, setting the mood for them to give way 



J^({ &Uvj 47 



to their lustful desires. He is the cloud that sits upon the earth late 
at night and early in the morning, hiding the evil deeds of men, 
often mistaken as fog. He is everywhere. He is the chill that makes 
one shiver, the touch one feels when no one else is around, the 
whistle one hears but cannot discern from where. He is in a girl's 
desire to grip a boy, hoping he will protect her from something 
frightening, and in turn, sending him the wrong message. He is the 
lustful dream that you dare tell no one about but want to dream 
repeatedly. His seductive sickening-sweet breath, imitating roses 
and honeysuckle, lures his victims into a snare. The harder they 
try to escape, the more entangled they become. He is like opium, 
and once he enters the body and soul of his victim, he ejaculates 
his bitter seed into them and their off-spring, gripping generations 
to come. 

Amaymon, the principality of the South, holds all southern 
communities in his strong-hold. The small, rich, green, industrious 
community of Lynch Station, nestled in turquoise-filled rolling 
hills, wooded by meandering veins of water which spill into the 
Staunton River, was the ideal throne for Amaymon. This small 
town had invited him into its fold through the stench of hierarchy 
and prejudice. 

The whites divided themselves into three groups: the so-called 
intelligent town officials and business owners who lived in large, 
two-story homes some of brick or stone, close to town; the working 
clan who lived in well-groomed, white-framed homes which sat upon 
massive, white-washed stone foundations; and the poor whites, the 
grimy and needy who lived at the base of the hills in three-room, 
weather-beaten shacks mounted on dilapidated foundations, their 
window broken, porchless shacks owned by Jack Plowman, the 
president of The Peoples Bank. 

Then there were the coloreds who, like the whites, were divided 
by status. The more affluent coloreds, as they called themselves. 



48 ^e^ C'li^vj 



lived in two-story frame homes with well- kept green lawns. Pastor 
Reid, minister of the AMC Methodist Church, lived in the parish, 
a beautiful white structure upon a stately stone foundation, at 
the base of the hills. A stream meandered out of the wooded area 
behind the church and trailed some five miles behind the homes of 
the affluent, less affluent and poor coloreds. It eventually flowed 
into the Staunton River near town, dumping all unpleasant smells, 
all shenanigans, and all rowdiness into it. The poor lived closest to 
town at the end of Main Street, where the fishing was good. The 
train crossed the trestle from Hurt into this section of Lynch Station 
and traveled behind Well Garby's slaughter house, Carl Tanner's 
lumberyard, Massie's tobacco warehouse, and Martin Campbell's 
feed and supply store. If not for the government-issued stamps, no 
one in Lynch Station would have known about the Depression the 
outside world endured. The well-off remained well-off, and the 
poor lived life as usual. 

Amaymon divided towns through various means, using 
anything, and everything; work, money, community status, where 
one lived, who one was, and, yes, skin color— however, at Lynch 
Station he had entered and taken a seat. He was well aware of the 
religious formality of the people of this town. He knew about the 
white and the colored preachers' attempts to bring the community 
together by preaching from the book of Corinthians. He had boldly 
sat in both congregations, clinging tightly to the hate-filled prideful 
parishioners. He had called his generals together. "Make ready your 
armies, he said. We have seeds to plant in anyone who breaks one 
letter of the law or forgets the rules of love according to Corinthians 
13. Seize them immediately! Do not give them time to repent! I 
want to enter them quickly." 

The least obvious divider in Lynch Station was the amber wheat 
field that separated the white side of the community from the 
colored side. Amaymon and his agents had polluted the field with 



J^(( &Utj 49 



darnel. This field extended from the back of the United Missionary 
Church and fanned out clear back to the base of the hills where the 
poor dug for crystal turquoise pay rent to Jack Plowman. Many of 
the colored boys and poor white boys, ranging in age from twelve 
to fifteen, worked sheaving wheat from this field. There, they were 
just boys, sweaty boys swinging cycles and reapers, tying bundles of 
sheaves together, laughing and joking, talking about girls they had 
kissed or tapped, as well as the ones they planned to marry. 

Sam Tanner, the overseer of this harvest, was twenty-two, the 
youngest son of thirteen children sired by Carl Tanner, the owner 
of the lumber yard. Occasionally, an older or younger sibling— or a 
girlfriend— would bring lunch to these boys. Both sides of the wheat 
field bowed as if royalty were entering when Aldonia came. It was 
on such occasions that Sam noticed Aldonia, the daughter of Pastor 
Reid, as she made her way to her older brother Jacob. 

"Who's that fine young thing?" Sam asked. 

"Who?" A young colored boy had overheard him. 

"Her," Sam responded with fixated eyes. "That girl with Jacob 
Reid." 

"Oh! She be his little sister, Aldonia." 

"Hmm," signed Sam, rubbing his chin, staring her up and 
down. "My, my, my." 

The young, colored boy, recognizing the look, said, "Sir, she be 
Pastor Reid's daughter." 

"C I" 

bo! 

"She be the same age as me," replied the boy, hoping to make 
Aldonia less appealing, as well as to protect her from what he had 
heard about white men. 

"And how old is that?" 

"Thirteen." 



50 ^e<( &Ui^ 



Sam's blue eyes seemed ablaze. He became consumed after that. 
All he saw was Aldonia. He ceased counting the number of sheaves 
or who brought them. 

He remembered four long, raven black-braids, neatly tied with 
white ribbons. He remembered seeing her tiny nose crinkle when 
her lips curled to smile at her brother Jacob, revealing lustrous 
white pearls. He remembered her luminous, smooth brown skin 
clothed in something yellow, but he could not remember yellow 
what. He noticed the definition of her arms and the length of her 
fingers and the whiteness oi her nails. He noticed the shapeliness 
of her slightly bowed legs and her small bare feet. He noticed that 
her evenly spaced, round eyes were the deepest shade of midnight 
he had ever seen, accented with a star-like twinkle. Even her ears 
looked luscious, right down to the tiny, golden hoop earrings. She 
was a peach tree about to blossom. 

He did not remember her age, or at least he cared not to. He 
did not care that she was colored or that her father was a preacher. 
He wanted her, but not in a lustful way. He wanted to love her, care 
for her, protect her. He wanted her and only her to nurture his 
seed. He began to hate that he was white and in the South. Aldonia 
consumed his waking and sleeping moments. Thoughts of what the 
whites might say and what the coloreds might do tormented him. 

Then the harvest was over. After the workers carefully picked 
through each sheave and removed every speck of darnel, Sam 
transported the sheaves to the storehouse behind Mr. Campbell's 
feed store. The workers raked the remaining darnel into a pile in 
the middle of the field to burn. Many of the older farmers and 
younger children came to watch this burning. Both coloreds and 
whites joined hands, as Pastor Pritchett and Pastor Reid prayed for 
a better harvest next year. They asked God to free them of every tare 
in the field. They asked God to expose the tare planters. "In Jesus' 
name, amen, amen, and amen," said both pastors. 



^e<( &t(^ij 51 



All watched as the sparks took flight and swirled in the air, only 
to be inhaled by Amaymon and spit out, carried by the evening 
breeze to settle in anonymous areas of the field. The wind hurled 
and whistled like many women laughing and crying. A cloud like 
a gypsy woman in a skirt danced in the pale, white, face of the 
man in the moon. Loose chaff like shiny golden beads trickled 
from beneath the skirt of Amaymon's gypsy queen, settling into 
the fertile rich soil of the wheat fields, settling into the menacing 
hearts of men. 

Both pastors gazed in awe at the astounding exhibit above. 
Both watched as the shower of gleaming delight, like falling stars 
- or, rather, fallen angels - rained down, entering the souls of 
men, entering the crevices of earth. "You know, Pritchett," said 
Pastor Reid as he took in the responses of the crowd. "This battle 
you and I fight isn't with flesh and blood. We wrestle against the 
principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this 
darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly 
places." He looked upward. 

"Indeed we do," said Pritchett. "You know, Reid, just the other 
day I read an article in the paper." 

Both men began to walk back to Pritchett's church. 

"What was it about?" 

"Well, the author was unknown. It seemed to be something 
you'd write. Let me think. It read thus: 'Speed the day when 
prejudice shall vanish like mist on the river, and all the children of 
the state, whether native or foreign, of every class and color, shall 
combine to make Virginia what she can and ought to be'." 

Amaymon, who had sprayed the night air with droplets Eros 
splendor, was celebrating with his agents over their victory when 
suddenly, the words spoken by Pritchett gripped Amaymon by the 
throat, causing his agents to cringe in horror. Each scurried about 
in a frenzy to find the source of such venomous words, words that 



51 J^e-i^&tt^vj 



could destroy their master's hold over this town and over these 
people. 

"I can see why the writer remained anonymous, but no, it 
was not me, my brother, though I do wholeheartedly agree with 
whomever they might be. The Almighty did not create man to 
behave less intelligently then animals." 

"So when, where, and how do we become one body again, one 
people, one church?" asked Pastor Pritchett. 

"I don't know. Soon, I hope. Old wounds take time to heal. I'll 
be preaching on the power of forgiveness this Sunday," said Reid. 

"And I shall preach on how we can say we love God whom 
we've not seen and hate our brothers who stand before us." 

Ray Pritchett, the firstborn son of his generation of Pritchetts, had 
received his father John's ministerial collar around the same time 
that young Edward Reid and his wife, Corsetta, arrived in Lynch 
Station. Pastor John Pritchett had written to the home office of the 
AMC Methodist Association, requesting a pastor for the colored 
community. He explained that the entire colored membership 
had recently left the Union Missionary Church because of old 
Jake Pritchett, a ninety-two-year-old retired hellfire and damnation 
preacher, young Ray's grandfather. 

To this day no one knows what came over old Jake. Some say 
that, whatever it was, it had always been there. Some, like OUie Bell 
Johnson, who use to clean, cook, and tend to his wife and their 
children, said he never liked coloreds. She said, "To him we was 
always no-count nigger slaves, is what he always say. I see him and 
his devilish red-looking self when he said it. He just looked at me 
and laughed real hard." Many of the older families like the meat- 
carving Garby's, the Tanner's, who owned the lumberyard and the 
Plowman's who had for years cheated the poor whites, the coloreds, 
and anyone else they could, knew that old Jake only pretended to be 



J<^({ &Uij 53 



a preacher. But that's the way it was. It's the way it had always been. 
Pritchetts had always preached, Plowmans had always cheated, 
Garbys had always slaughtered, and Tanners had always lumbered. 

It was the first Sunday after fall harvest. The joint choir of 
coloreds and whites had just finished singing, "When the Roll is 
called Up Yonder I'll be There." Old pastor Jake, who had long 
since retired, still sat in his same seat on the pulpit, asleep most 
of the time. This particular Sunday, he awoke from a disturbing 
look and abruptly stood up, almost falling backwards, and yet he 
wobbled towards the podium, gripped it with left hand, raised the 
sterling-silver handled cane he held in his right hand, and yelled, 

"Hell no. Y'all ain't gone go to no white man's heaven to be 
with me and my pure white God, get out! You hell-bound foul- 
smelling heathens." His voice, magnified by Amaymon, caused 
every member in the church to shudder. He banged his cane on 
the floor and Amaymon slammed shut every window in the church 
while simultaneously blowing the doors to the foyer open. The 
hands of colored children were snatched from the hands of white 
children by colored mothers. Colored men embraced their wives as 
if they needed protection. 

"I hate the lot of ya. I want every last one of ya foul-smelling 
darkies to leave. Now!" the old man shouted. 

No one could calm him— not his wife, not his sons, not his 
daughters. His frail, humped body stood forcibly, aided by 
Amaymon, under the weight of his son, John, and grandson, Ray, 
who were attempting to seat him. The younger Pritchett women, 
Ray's sisters, attempted to console the coloreds whose eyes were 
now enflamed of hurt, fear, anger. i 

"He's old; he didn't mean it," said the eldest of Ray's sisters, 
who taught most of the colored children at the schoolhouse next 
to the church. 



54 J^e^ C^Uij 



Old Jake continued ranting and screaming for them to get 
out, to just get the hell out. Every colored man, woman, and child 
gathered their belongings and quickly exited through the double 
doors of the church, snatching away from the whites who attempted 
to embrace them, whites that were more than friends, whites who 
were like brothers and sisters, whites they had known, loved, and 
deeply trusted. They vowed to never return to that godless hell-hole 
of a church. Amaymon gleefully tapped upon the follicles of their 
hair, unthreading the cords of love that had creating a trusting 
bond and implanting seeds of suspicion within the minds of all the 
coloreds against all the whites. 

Old pastor Jake was carried out of the rear of the church in 
irate protest by six sturdy men, as if he were a living corpse, into 
the wheat field where he was finally calmed. This was the night that 
Amaymon established his throne in the small township, making it 
his home, and he liked it. 

A month later, young Pastor Reid was preaching to a group of 
angry, hurt colored people. They had always believed deep down 
in their souls that the whites had always felt as old pastor Jake felt. 
They felt the whites had been living a lie in an attempt to fool 
God so they could gain entrance to heaven. Forgiveness was out 
of the question.The whites could do their own laundry from now 
on. They could plow their own fields, clean their own homes, and 
nurse their own babies. 

Pastor John Pritchett had ordained his son Ray prior to Reid's 
arrival. He later counseled the two young pastors to love one another 
as brothers. It was then that both young pastors vowed, in secret 
before God, to walk the agape walk so that healing and restoration 
of the community could began. From that very moment their spirits 
connected like that of the shepherd David and Jonathan, the son 
of King Saul. They were young warriors standing in the gap to free 



]U^&Utj55 



a disillusioned, frightened community from the invisible clutches 
of the evil one. 

The two young pastors called a town meeting. There, the two 
lovingly embraced. While the men of the community watched, 
some grumbled with disgust, turning red-faced, and others looked 
on hopefully, especially Sam Tanner. To the poor whites and the 
coloreds, unity meant having a better, more equal life. To Sam, it 
meant having Aldonia as his wife. 

Afterwards, all the boys gathered at the rear of the United 
Missionary Church to receive their wages. Due to Sam's 
preoccupation with Aldonia, each boy, including the coloreds, 
received over and above the wages of the previous harvest. Each 
boy marveling at the amount he received. As they took their money 
home, counting and re-counting, they spoke of Sam Tanner's 
gracious and generous spirit. This was the first time ever, in the 
small town of Lynch Station, that coloreds and whites had been 
treated equal and fair. But no one, not even Sam, realized just how 
kind and liberal love could be. 

Now that the end of harvest had come, each boy rejoined 
the other children at the Pritchetts' school on Main Street. Sam 
returned to work for his father at the lumberyard at the edge of 
the colored's side of town.The fall winds began to rise, making an 
occasional whistle. The air became cooler and was a much-needed 
relief to all. As the trees took on their colorful fall coats, many 
young lovers thought of cuddling in cozy places. This was the time 
when all fertile creatures conceived.This was the time when seeds 
were planted for spring crops. This was the times when the fires of 
the soul were warmed. The time when rocks swelled and trickled 
with clear, cool waters. 

Several weeks passed and no sight of Akionia. Sam did not ciare 
ask the colored men who worked for his father about her, for fear 



56 ^e<( (l^tfitj 



they would tell Pastor Reid or, worse, his father. So Sam worked 
feverishly at the mill, attempting to break the hold this colored 
child had over him. "She's not a goddess. She's not white. She has 
not even begun to bud as a woman," he murmured. "She's a child, 
nothing but a little girl, and a nigger, at that." He was attempting to 
harden his heart by wounding his spirit. 

The ringing of the church bells intruded into his thoughts. It 
was nine o'clock in the morning. He looked up and saw Aldonia 
running past the mill. Her long, gracious bowlegs were in full, 
rhythmic stride. Each ribbon-tied braid flopped behind her. The 
back of her pink dress sailed on the wind. She tripped, almost 
falling, and he jumped, dropping a two-by-eight, outstretched his 
arms, gesturing to catch her. He looked quickly from side to side to 
see who might be watching, then looked back at her. 

He shouted, "Are you okay?" only to hear a heart wrenching, 
"Yes sir," as she quickly regained her stride and continued. 

Sam stood, caught in the moment. The abundance of his heart 
spilled forth in his mind. He envisioned himself as his father, silver 
haired, a ruddy wrinkled face with bushy white hair hiding his 
mouth, a pot belly hanging over his belt with bright red suspenders 
clipped onto seat worn tan trousers. There is no way she'd ever see 
anything except an old— white— man. He watched distance engulfed 
her, taking her from him. He walked from the front of the mill, 
through sawdust, past the chattering men working at humming and 
buzzing saws, across the rib-caged train tracks and down a slight 
incline to the quiet, rushing waters of the riverbanks, where he sat 
amidst the tall blades of grass. 

"Why have I been born?" he mumbled, looking at the blue 
rushing waters where Amaymon, having recognized the look of a 
sick heart reclined atop the blades of grass at the water's edge. This 
town has taught her to see me this way, he thought. If I were a 
boy her age, a colored boy, then maybe she'd see me. "God," he 



J^e.(l&Uii 51 



sighed, looking heavenward. 'My insides burn for her and yet all 
she does is run past me, her braids flopping behind her, luring me, 
beckoning me to pursue her. I've heard of the bewitching powers 
of the colored but she's supposed to be a pastor's daughter,' he 
thought to himself. 

Amaymon stood behind Sam. He reached his long tentacles 
through the follicles of Sam's hair without notice. He entered the 
pores of his scalp and gently massages his brain. 

"I will have her. I must have her. he will be mine." 

But then he reverted to a more honorable quest, warring with 
himself. 

"I'll talk to Pastor Pritchett about how to approach her father. 
That's what I'll do. As long as I know she'll one day be mine, I can 
resist my impulses and wait. I won't do anything rash. Love is not 
forceful. Love is kind. Love is patient, and I—" 

As he continued to wrestle with the passion that had filled his 
loins, a long-haired female collie appeared and stood stationary, 
awaiting a male golden retriever which was close by, to mount 
her. Sam had noticed no ritualized chasing, fighting, or biting to 
discourage her pursuer. She stood ready, looking back with longing, 
submissive, eager brown eyes, welcoming his mount, welcoming 
the fanatical humping, followed by a belly filled with puppies. He 
wondered where the two dogs had come from. He imagined the 
forbidden and shook his head and rubbed his eyes. 

"No," he shouted. "If only I could hate her. If only she were 
just another ordinary girl. If only I could find one single flaw in 

her." Sam looks upward and shouted, "I want her now! Can't you 

I" 
see! 

A train whistle drowned his voice as it entered town. No 

one heard. No one saw. No one, that is, except Amaymon, who 

continued to interject thoughts into Sam's mind. He immediately 

beckoned for one of his agents. 



58 J^e-({ &Uvj 



"Go! Inform the spirit of lust to come. I have an assignment 
for him." 

Sam lowered his head to his knees, weeping as only a broken- 
hearted man could. He softly prayed, "Dear God, please save me." 

The blue, cloudless sky opened and began to weep with him. 
The plopping of each drop sent Amaymon and his agents fleeing for 
cover. The mating dogs were no more. Sam was not even sure they 
had ever been. He laid back into the tall, wet thicket and basked in 
the soothing rain. This rain washed his thoughts, washed his body, 
and washed his soul. This rain concealed his tears. This rain was 
like healing balm to his heart. 



M^&l(K,tj59 



In Rodin's Garden 



Bodies grow from groves 
Black and marble encase 
Life holds still au natural 

Trapped on high pedestals 
Standing steadily one-legged 
Wrestling in a placid pond 

City sounds disappear 
Behind ivy-covered walls 
Body language solely spoken 

Between thinking people 
And one who has thought 
Language of humanity 

Wintry wind ruffles 
Early-blooming trees 
Chilly as the static faces 

Molded in anguish 
Mixed with sorrow 
Made more honest 

Than those looking up 
Squinting to see 
Furrowed brows briefly 

Trying to rationalize 
Pink roses budding early 
Behind a headless form 

Smooth against the rough 
Imagination tall 
Chiseling at civilization 



60 J^e-({ C'Ui^ 



Breathing souls walk 
Between the figures 
Seeing themselves 

Witnessing a moment anew 
Brought back from memory 
By cast expression physique 

The Thinker lingers 
Sits on a stone bench 
Mulls the mute howls 

Pushed from nude bodies 
Trapped in the Gates of Hell 
Opening to nowhere 

Opposite The Kiss 
Of soft marble lips 
And art with mind's grips 



^e<( C'll^.ii 61 



Views 



On the swing, 

the pause to look 

over the top of the branch 

or forward as far as the Unes 

will take me, make me want 

to struggle higher, pump harder 

to see over the backyard photinia 

and glimpse the neighbor's seclusion. 

The Winema cliffs 
unfold above the sand, 
quaggy and grey, I play 
and later walk along the fringe 
watching the bump on the horizon 
wondering if the man on the deck 
sees me as his coastal vanishing point, 
like a tall log stood upright by the waves. 

Standing on top 

of Gaudi's Park Guell, 

the soil breeds scarlet-blooming 

cactus matching the bright tile 

below where the trumpet transient 

plays more for himself than his city 

stretching silently into the rusty haze 

where I smell grilled tomatoes and red wine. 

Looking out 

the foggy train 

windows up to Grindelwald 

the powder below meets the powder 

above somewhere behind the clouds 

whose undersides I see while I watch 

the ones below me trying to hide the log 

cabins with bright red and green shutters closed. 



62 %t^ C^ii\u 



Pressing close 

my body molds around 

the railing at the end of St. Andrew's 

pier while the mist dews my dark hair 

and the wind freezes me, even my eyes 

so I close them and look inward finding 

the prospect muddled with assorted pieces 

of homemade cookies, handwritten letters, and clocks. 

Holding tight 

my fingers stretch the seams 

of my bedroom quilt as each patch 

becomes a view through which I hear 

people scattered amongst the landscapes 

calling me to come, but now I just need to stay 

here at home where I can sleep under the quilt 

and find myself somewhere between the North Sea and the swin^ 



^^ C^t(^.vj 63 



Sand Dollar 



Gray remains find a place to settle 
beneath the breakers hitting me 
just above the knees, unless I plunge 
my hand down to scoop up a white coin 
purer than a copper penny freshly minted. 

The tide inhales, sucking salty water 
back to the body to reveal offerings 
of the ocean readily available 
to the young children too small 
to fish the sea flowers out of the surf. 

I watch the girl with brown curls 
and an eyelet sun cap squeal as her 
toes touch the freezing skim of sea 
over the rocky grits holding a whole 
dollar stuck in the sand just for her. 

The frothy ocean lap breaks around 
my ankles; the tan foam a momento mori 
of last night's midnight squall I heard 
whipping around the bedroom walls 
calling me out to greet the calm morning. 

Today, the little girl grabs the foam 
like she would a sink's dishwater bubbles 
and blows it off her fingers, pretending 
to be the wind blowing it off barnacles 
back down the serrated coastline to me 

where I search the sandy banks 

for five petals enclosed in a circle 

of death I've been collecting since 

I was that litde girl who knows nothing 

of the storm in her hand or demise under her toes. 



64 ^e^ C-Utj 



The Man with the Bass Guitar 



It's May and sunset. The sky melts into pink and violet and blue 
like diluted ink. The days are longer, but the nights are cool, the 
air sucking kisses along the skin, freezing the sweat to the delicate 
hairs of the arm like frost on the grass in November. Marian shivers, 
clasps her palms to her bare, tan forearms, and pulls her knees to 
her narrow chest. 

She is running away. Or she will be, soon. She sits under her 
mother's favorite forsythia bush, planted next to their front door, 
the flowers, pale yellow drops, hanging among the green. Her 
backpack (blue, tough, unisex) is beside her in the dirt. She has 
underwear, her pajamas, a picture of her father and her, seventeen 
dollars, and the red maple leaf key chain her best friend, Allison, 
sent from Canada. The paint's already begun to chip, as if the leaf 
is crumbling, fall crumbling to winter. But it's May and Marian will 
be leaving soon. 

Running away soon. Now, she listens to her mother and her two 
brothers in the kitchen. They do not know, not yet. She is supposed 
to be in her room, was ordered to her room - the indignity of being 
eight and ordered to her room. It was an argument, an argument 
about her final project for the science fair. Her mother wanted the 
green background and blue borders for her different sections. She 
wanted Marian to draw clouds and suns to "brighten it up a bit". 

Marian did not want to draw clouds. And Dad would not have 
made her, she said. 

Your father isn't here, her mother said and her lips grew tight 
and thin, and Marian could see the glint of one tooth. 

But she wished he was. He wouldn't make her do stupid 
projects about the weather. He would come up with something 
extraordinary, something that would explode or turn purple or 
generate electricity. Her mother only wanted to do projects about 



^e(( &l(^.vj 65 



rainfall and plant growth and could you freeze ice with salt water in 
it? Stupid projects for babies like Allen and Billy who weren't even 
old enough for the science fair yet. 

And her? The two-time champion. She had wiped the floor 
with Nancy Horace (that was one of her father's expressions, wipe 
the floor) and she meant to again. Nancy with her Barbie doll lunch 
boxes and polka dot hair bands and her parents who both came 
to career day and videotaped their awards assemblies and gave her 
bouquets of red roses. Marian doesn't want red roses, not at all, 
but she does want the science fair. It's hers (goddammit, her father 
would say, though she's never dared repeat it) and she's almost old 
enough to go to the County Fair next year. County. 

But she can't say any of this to her mother, who has to pause 
and make Allen peanut butter sandwiches or wipe Billy's face or 
answer the phone and whisper to their grandmother, her hand 
cupped over the receiver, holding in the secrets, her eyes switching 
between Marian and Allen, as if telling them not to listen, it's just 
adult talk, nothing at all to you. 

Marian knows better. And she knows her mother knows 
and fears this, she can tell. So to the crayon clouds and the blue 
construction paper and the sticky cylinders of the glue sticks, to 
them and her mother, she said, "I hate you." 

And she went to her room. She can hear the rattle and clatter of 
plates in the kitchen. When her mother is upset, she does the dishes. 
Soon, she may also start vacuuming. Marian came to understand 
this when her father still lived with them. But now, she, Marian, is 
the cause of the cleaning, the dishes thrust into the soapy, scalding 
water, scrubbed hard, her mother's long hands emerging red like 
sunburn from the murk. 

In her belly, about where her yellow summer shorts reach her 
navel, Marian is glad. And she's leaving, she knows. She edges out 



66 ]^t^ e^ti^u 



from under the bush, dusts herself off, picks up her backpack. 
She will shoulder it, tighten the laces on her Sketchers, and walk 
down the street. She will turn left on Hanover, right on HoUington, 
and then she will walk down, down, down to Central Avenue. 
From there, she knows she can take the #16 bus to Kensington 
Apartments, where her father sleeps on Uncle Dan's couch. She 
began looking at the bus schedule two weeks ago, when her mother 
began using words like "custody" and "visitation rights." Allison 
had told her about those words once. 

"That's when you know you're in trouble," she had said. Then 
she was moving to Canada with her father. Marian has decided to 
send her a postcard when she gets to Kensington apartments, to 
notify her of the change of address. 

It is not too dark yet. The stars are waiting behind this veil 
of drippy blues and purples, the moon is a faint, flat disc on the 
horizon. The streetlights are on, throwing a watery, indifferent 
light on the sidewalks. The other houses on her street - there are 
twenty four of them, Marian has counted - are also lit, other dishes 
clattering in other kitchens, other baby brothers demanding pre- 
dinner peanut butter sandwiches, other poorly conceived science 
fair boards lying scattered on other living room coffee tables. 

Marian stands before the bulk of the forsythia, inhaling, 
considering for a moment shimmying back up the gutter and onto 
the garage roof and through her bedroom window which hangs 
open like a confession, the checked curtains rippling softly in the 
evening breeze. But it is then, contemplating her green-checked 
curtains (to be abandoned, like her books and her ant farm and the 
small cloth rabbit named Charlie), that she hears the footsteps. 

She turns, hooks her thumbs under her backpack straps, ready 
to ditch and run if it's someone she knows. The key to running 
away, of course, is not to get caught. But she stops. For a moment. 



^e<( &ti^vj 67 



the silhouette seems wonderfully familiar, one she knows from 
flying kites in the backyard or bending over her math homework 
or standing in her doorway just after lights out, contemplating her 
fake-sleeping form for a moment or two before walking away. But 
in the pale, unimpressive glow of the streetlight, something checks 
her instinct to run, to fling herself into the dangling, empty arms, 
dignity or no dignity. 

Under the streetlight three houses down from her own, the 
long, lean shadow is a man, an unfamiliar man, too young to be her 
father, in blue jeans and a leather jacket the color of burnt meat. 
A long, bulky package is slung across his back; she recognizes the 
vague shape as a guitar or another instrument of that kind. As he 
approaches, she hears the hollow clock clock of his heels on the 
sidewalk, like a horse marching in an old Western. Cowboy boots. 

There are no cowboy boots on Marian's street. The parents 
wear suits and polished black dress shoes. The driveways are 
clogged with mini vans and SUVs. Inside the garages, some adults 
keep those other cars, low, sleek, shining and absolutely off limits 
to children, like Mr. Lewis' silver Mercedes, his "company car" that 
he washes every weekend in the summer. These garages, attached to 
the houses, are full of bicycles, baseball bats, soccer balls, volleyball 
nets, and inflatable beach toys, which are sometimes scattered 
across the narrow front lawns, which are a quarter of the size of the 
houses themselves. 

There are four kinds of houses in her neighborhood. They 
are brick facades, stone facades, wood facades, stucco facades 
and, when new, they smell like department stores or clothes from 
a mail-order catalogue. They wind along the curve of the street, 
Holmwood Street, perfectly spaced. Some have been extended to 
add a grandparent or a child home from college. Marian is sure. 



68 ^e<( &ti^vj 



however, that none of the twenty-four are for cowboys carrying 
guitar cases, whatever their size. 

Clock clock, his boots say, passing Sandy Jefferson's house (her 
parents, still together for now, though everyone can hear the nightly 
arguments), and Marian leans a little into the forsythia, seizing at a 
branch with one hand, for defense or offense, she does not know. 
The faint perfume of it is comforting. Marian thinks of her mother 
in the kitchen next to her, thinks if she called out right now, her 
mother would hear her and come and would not be angry because 
here was this man: Marian is afraid he will see her. 

As he crosses under the streetlight outside her house, he 
pauses. A tremor goes through him and he looks directly at Marian, 
the movement of his head slow, almost jerky like a marionette 
manipulated by an amateur puppetmaster. His eyes meet hers and 
in the dim light, she can see the glow of a broad grin. He raises his 
hand in a wave as he is crossing in front of her, walking the narrow 
length of their scant, green lawn where it meets the sidewalk. She 
thinks about the short distance from the bush to her front door, 
the deadbolt to draw, the telephone in the foyer, but she does not 
move towards them. 

"Nothing to be scared of," the man says, closer now, next to 
their mailbox with the red cardinals painted across it. Her mother 
did that. She has always been good at things like that. Marian can see 
in the brighter floodlights from the house that his uncut hair snarls 
shaggy around his ears, one of which is pierced by a silver disc that 
steals the floodlight's glare. He wears a black T-shirt, faded, which 
reads, "More Cowbell" in block lettering. He is circling around the 
mailbox, the clock clock of his boots on their driveway. 

She has decided not to answer him when she says, "I'm not 
scared." 



J^e<{ C'tpi.ii 69 



Clock clock his boots say and he stops to look at her. The guitar 
(it is in a black nylon case, she sees) looms at his back like a hump 
or a misshapen, lopsided set of wings. He shrugs slowly, wriggles 
his shoulders until they pop, tilts his neck until it cracks, all the 
while looking at her with strange, quiet eyes. He is twenty, fifteen 
feet away and she could still run, she knows. But then he says, "No? 
Then stay awhile." And for the second time, she does not, cannot 
move. The corners of his mouth twitch like spider's legs. 

Clock clock once more and then he is crossing over their lawn, 
to the bush, and she imagines the grass hissing and dying under 
his step. The grass is whole and green and he is only a lost cowboy, 
now standing over her. She feels small, but raises her chin, looks 
into his eyes and sees one is blue and the other brown. His lips are 
chapped and when he speaks again, she can feel the hot, ripe puff 
of his breath on her scalp, smelling like burnt rubber. "Shall we 
sit?" he asks. 

They do, then sit on the front stoop, the shadow of forsythia 
a comforting familiarity to her right, and him, cross-legged on her 
left, the worn heels of his boots tucked under his thighs, his guitar 
case close at his side. If she runs now, he will surely reach out and 
grab her arm, maybe her hair in its long ponytail. But there is still 
her mother in the kitchen, who can look out at any moment and 
see, who can call "Dinner, Marian!" up the stairs and discover her 
open window and her soft-swaying curtains, who can fight off any 
lost cowboy, carrying the thick smells of the desert on his skin. 
Until then, she will wait, she can wait. "I am not scared," she says 
again, mostly to herself. 

But he answers, says, "Of course you're not, Marian." 

She blinks, startled. "How do you know my name?" she 
demands. Her voice is shrill, but steady, she notes with a certain 



70 ^e<( C^Uvj 



amount of pride. Not scared, never scared. Dad taught me that, 
she thinks. 

The stranger shuffles in his pockets, loosely searching, as if for 
something lost that he does not remember is lost. He pauses, looks 
at her and the suggestion of a smile toys once again with the muscles 
of his face, this time softer, almost shy. "It's on your backpack," he 
points out. 

"Oh," she says. 

"Relax," he says. He has forgotten the lost thing for a moment 
and that soft, shy smile makes him look younger, like the high school 
boys who live down the street. She almost wants to smile back. Up 
close, she can see the leather of his jacket is scuffed, cracked in 
places like the skin of his lips. Underneath it, his shirt is more gray 
than black, bleached by the long attentions of the sun at midday, 
by hard use and hard washing. She does not have clothes that look 
like that. 

"What's a cowbell?" she asks. 

"It's an instrument. You hit it with a stick, like a triangle." He 
pats at the insides of his jacket, pulls out a small, silver lighter. Idly, 
he flicks at the tab at its mouth. A few feeble sparks spray around 
his fingers and fall dark onto her front step. He repeats this process 
several times before a long, blue flame sputters to life. She stares 
at it until he releases it, lets it die. "I guess you're not a B-O-C fan, 
then." 

"B-O-C?" she repeats. All she can imagine are the elements of 
the periodic table at school, little letters symbolizing metals and 
gases and liquids of all kinds. H, Hydrogen, C, Carbon, O, Oxygen. 
B-O-C must be some sort of chemical combination. But what that 
had to do with cowbells, she could not guess. 

"Christ, man," he says and she is startled by the word, which 
she has only ever heard uttered by her father. The sound is different, 



J^e4^&Ui^ 71 



almost sibilant, each letter savored. "It's a band. A rock band. 
Don't you listen to rock music?" He looks at her, incredulous but 
not annoyed, as she might have expected. The high school boys 
down the street always tell kids her age that they are too young and 
stupid to know anything about real life; they looking burdened and 
exasperated at the very existence of kids like Marian. The strange 
man has nothing of this look, this disdain. In fact, his expression is 
something of anguish on her behalf. 

She tries to answer. "You mean like Avril Lavigne? Or Good 
Charlotte?" She dredges up what little of MTV she has watched 
with her cousins during the summer or the songs kids play on the 
school bus or the fleeting echoes of electric guitars on the car radio 
before her mother changes the station. 

She studies his face, waiting for some change, some relief, 
some sense of "Oh you're not completely hopeless." Instead, eyes of 
both color grow large and round, and under layers of suntan and 
sunburn, the stranger's face pales. He shudders, chin dropping to 
his chest, hands falling to his knees as if he lacks the strength to 
hold them aloft. "Avril Lavignel" His voice is as thin and reedy as a 
worn guitar string. "What about The Doors? Velvet Underground? 
The Who? The Eagles? Led Zeppelin? Black Sabbath? The Byrds? 
Bob Marley and the Wallers? Jimi Hendrix? Janis Joplin? Kansas? 
The Rolling Stones-?" 

After this tirade, this list of names so strange and unfamiliar 
that she perceives them more as a foreign language than anything 
comprehensible to her ears, he seems to collapse in on himself, as 
if a pressure valve had burst and he will slowly begin to deflate right 
before her eyes. After some minutes, he lifts his chin, and turns in 
her direction, that small, glimmering earring throwing light into his 
eyes. He searches her face for some recognition and he sighs. "What 
is the world coming to, anyway?" he asks, not her, she thinks, but 



12 j?:^((&t(\,u 



her street of twenty four houses, the streetlights and the mini vans 
and the flatscreen TVs now casting their own blue light into the 
dusk. 

She does not answer, only watches as he fidgets with his pockets 
again. The Levis are thin, faded to near colorlessness like his shirt. 
Both legs are ripped at the knee, not in the way that the high school 
kids wear theirs now, sold from the low-lit clothing stores with their 
throbbing, pulsing bass music, but shredded from sheer age or a 
bad fall walking along highways in the dark. That highway smell is 
on him, his clothes, buried in his hair, that smell of pavement and 
car oil and the sun. She wants to ask about those highways when he 
thrusts one hand deep inside a side pocket and the light of triumph 
sparks in his eyes. 

He pulls out a pack of gum, small, individually wrapped white 
rectangles of gum in a sheet as for pills. Her Uncle Dan uses these 
gum-pills himself and he grumbles as he chews. Victory dies on the 
stranger's face. He sighs. Pops a piece in his mouth and begins to 
chew without pleasure. He extends the foil to her. "You trying to 
quit, too?" he asks and something shifts in his blue eye like a swamp 
creature beneath the surface of a mountain lake. She thinks, This is 
him looking amused, even though she's never seen anyone like him 
and it unsettles her, a now uncomfortable gurgle in her gut, around 
the waistband of her shorts. 

"I don't smoke," she says, still sensitive after her failure at "rock 
music." She knows about smoking, though, and adds, "I'm only 
eight." 

He shrugs. "Some people start when they're zero. Puff, puff 
away in the womb." Seeing her confused look. "Ah, you haven't 
had Health yet. Just wait. You'll see." He chews hard, the gum a 
little white raisin rolling over his tongue, around his teeth, which 
she sees are stained like clean paper where a coffee mug is left. She 



^<( &Uvj 73 



catches the glint of fillings, the old fashioned silver kind, in his back 
molars. Like the silver of his earring, they shine faintly in the dark. 

"How old are you?" Marian asks suddenly, looking away from 
those teeth, those imperfect teeth, stained and slightly crooked and 
cased with metal. 

He snaps the gum. "Personal questions, Marian. Why don't 
you ask my name instead?" 

She edges away from him, eyeing him in profile. He has a mole 
next to his un-pierced ear and stubble sweeps across the line of his 
jaw like lichen on barren stone. The blue eye, closest to her, watches 
her. Smells roll off him steadily, as clouds of smoke from a fire, and 
now the tang of hot metal assaults her nose - the smell of cars left 
long in the sun and pans on the burner and an iron poker in red 
coals. She swallows. "What is it?" 

He inclines his face towards her and she can see the brown eye 
fix on her. It too conveys not amusement but an aggressive curiosity. 
It makes her shift. "There are many," he says, and chews, and his 
fingers - long and knobby and coarse - twitch idly, especially the 
first two of his right hand. 

"Like nicknames?" She has few. Her mother calls her "ladybug" 
and "pumpkin" sometimes, and her father called her "champ" until 
Allen was born and there were real boys in the house. She wishes for 
a good nickname sometimes, just as Billy was christened William 
on his birth certificate but he can be Billy, Willie, Will, Bill, and 
any number of things. But Marian is only Marian, and she's spent 
long hours trying to think of something better. 

"Yeah, they are that, I suppose." He pauses as if rifling through 
them in his mind, trying them out and discarding them, like clothes 
or shoes that don't quite fit. He chuckles aloud at one and she 
feels her pulse quicken. Then those eyes ghost over her face, as if 



74 ^e<( Ui^ij 



cataloguing it: the snub nose she hates, the dusty lashes, the pursed, 
troubled lips - her mother's. 

"Maybe for now, you'll just call me Friend." He is quiet, 
worrying away at his gum, chin down, fingers searching, tapping, 
twitching, wanting. 

She rolls her eyes, feeling braver, relieved by his foolishness. 
"Friend?" 

"What? Aren't we?" he asks, and now his full gaze is on her. 
His smile has gone brittle and he looks older, harsher, a face full of 
angles and dead skin, killed by slow exposure to the sun. 

"We've only just met," Marian says, and feels uncomfortable. 
She looks away from him, listens for the faint sounds of her family 
in the kitchen. The stars have begun to stand brighter in the sky 
and this makes her nervous. It should be dinner time soon, she 
should be able to leave, to walk away from this strange stranger, 
this cowboy in his T-shirt. Isn't her mother going to check on her? 
Marian wonders. The surety she felt in sitting on her front stoop, 
a perfectly safe place only an hour ago, begins to leak away like ice 
melting fast through her fingers. 

"Time is irrelevant," her Friend snaps, all softness gone, and 
her panic rises crazily for a moment. He's looking out over the neat 
rows of houses, large with their perfectly rectangular lawns, each 
home a variation on its neighbor, big, hollow, pastel barns, cast 
from the same mould of "house." Maybe he is looking into the 
windows, looking into the bedroom arguments and the kitchen 
arguments and the living room arguments. She feels that he is. He 
does not look at her when he says, "Besides, I am your friend. I 
promise you that." 

Instead, he surveys the neighborhood and there is something 
possessive in his gaze, as a king surveying his land, or perhaps more 
accurately, a general overlooking a conquered territory - something 



^e<( C-Uvj 15 



taken, stolen, even earned by frantic violence or perhaps slow and 
subtle infiltration. She felt some of that in the brown eye when it 
turned on her. She wants her mother. "Why are you my friend?" 
she asks, startled by her own question because she had not even 
thought it. 

"Because I understand," he says softly, almost gently. He 
smells like dust, the hot dust swept over a plain, the fodder for 
tornados and sandstorms and tears stung into people's eyes by the 
intrusion of that fine, scalding dirt. "I understand that sometimes 
. . . sometimes you want to hurt your mother, see the tears in her 
eyes. You want to defy her and go to your father, who you love and 
who is only the #16 bus away." 

She can feel the blue eye on her now but she doesn't want to see 
it, to look at it. He continues. "But you also hate him because you 
understand that it is his fault, his fault you are stuck in this house 
with your mother who doesn't understand and your two brothers, 
too stupid to realize. You hate, you hate them all." 

Startled by the word, which before tonight had only reference 
to brussels sprouts and the Nancy Horaces of the world, she feels 
exposed, naked. Again the desire to flee surges within her, that 
need to slam the door behind her, to hear the satisfying click of the 
lock, maybe even this stranger, this cowboy, this absurd "friend" 
banging on the wood, which is thick and sturdy and protective. But 
her little whispering thoughts are free in the open air. 

"But-how?" she asks, or tries to ask. She feels him looking at her 
with his mismatched eyes, as if they were borrowed from different 
people. He is looking inside her, how else could he know these 
things that she's never told anyone, not even Allison? She imagines 
him bursting through the door of her house, opening her notebooks 
and her treasure boxes, looking at the pictures on her bedstand 
with those knowing eyes. And yet, she feels his understanding, his 



76 J^e-({ C-Uu 



sympathy, cold as it is, because he knows, and how else could he 
know if he didn't understand? It is impossible for him to know, to 
understand, even though that same thrill in her gut says, of course 
he does. She isn't surprised, not at all. 

There is a backlog of words in her throat. She becomes aware 
of tears winding down her cheeks like the first warm, fat raindrops 
of a summer storm. She wants to run down the street to her father's 
couch at Uncle Dan's, to sit on the #16 bus and not cry, wants to 
turn and flee to her mother, to hug her and even Allen and Billy, 
wants also to take this stranger, this Friend by the hand, and walk 
down her street with him and tell him, "Here, it's yours, take it." 
She shakes, can feel the knocking of her knees, which is something 
she had always thought reserved for mystery books where there are 
hidden treasures and grinning skulls in hidden passageways. Lying, 
lying, lying . . . 

She sniffles and swipes at her runny nose. "That's not true." 
"Oh Marian," the Friend says. "We know the truth." 
And he lays a long-fingered hand on her arm. It is the first time 
in her life Marian has ever wanted to scream, to truly scream with 
horror and terror and disgust, and she knows she will remember 
it for years to come after this, if there are those years. She will 
remember the creeping cold of his chilly fingers, more penetrating 
than ice or frost or snow, the real, bone-cold fingers of death. And 
this, this in contrast to the smothering heat of his body next to hers, 
this heart of magma blanketed by the deadest, coldest stone. 

"It's not, it's not," she whispers, listening desperately for her 
mother. Perhaps she is on the phone. Or else this person, this 
Friend, this whatever it is has done something to her. She cannot 
know what, but the cold of his hand promises no love for Marian 
or her mother. 



J^e.({ e^Ui^ 77 



"Come now," he says and makes to chuck her under the chin. 
They don't quite touch, because she pulls away at the last moment, 
but the intent is there. "Don't be upset. Like I said, I'm your friend. 
Maybe I'll play you a song. Would you like that, Marian? Your own 

7" 

song; 

She makes a thick noise. She thinks of when she had the 
stomach flu when she was in kindergarten and she puked and 
puked until her ribs ached and nothing more would come out 
although it wanted to. Marian remembers those noises and this 
one is like them, smothered and sick and desperate. Earlier, she 
would have consented immediately, if only to catch a glimpse of 
the guitar. Now, there is only that thick, sick noise like something 
small strangling. 

"Well?" he asks. The air is ripe with him, something burnt in 
the oven or perhaps a toaster which hasn't been cleaned in a long 
time. The smirk is playing at his lips again and she thinks of insects 
with long legs and shivers. 

"Well, Marian?" 

Marian can see the warning in his eyes, hear it in his tone. 
It tells her, "Don't mess with me, champ. You think it's been 
scary so far? Just wait, wait and see what happens if you mess with 
this." She has seen such exchanges between her parents before, 
the unspoken words hot and heavy in the air like clinging steam. 
Slowly, deliberately, she nods. "Okay," she says. 

"Alrighty then." He unzips his guitar case and pulls out 
something black and sleek and stickered with skulls and roses. He 
strokes it fondly, the shiny, inky surface with its white and red decals 
of death. He sees her looking, says, "The Grateful Dead. Now that's 
a band." He settles the instrument across his faded Levis and begins 
to play, and she realizes then that it is not, in fact, a guitar, but a 



78 ^e<( C^Utj 



bass, a four-stringed instrument singing low and long and into the 
night, now completely descended. 

As the notes float out into the evening air, Marian studies her 
neighborhood, the blank eyes of the windows, the mute mouths of 
closeci doors. She imagines the notes creeping through the cracks, 
curling around the inhabitants like a desert wind, eating into the 
clean walls and carpets, snaking under beds or out of dark closets 
and into the soft-breathing children, asleep. Maybe a mother or 
two hears the deep singing of the bass, maybe they hold a daughter 
closer against them to keep out the music, to save them from it. 

Marian wants both her mother to save her from the music and 
to step into its sensuous melody and forget. Forget about dark streets 
of identical houses, forget about garages full of forgotten playthings, 
forget about little brothers, forget about science fair projects, forget 
about parents who stopped loving each other a long time ago and 
can't stay together, not even for you. The blurry streetlights and 
blurry TV sets and blurry living room lights seem to become one 
unified glow, the glow of midday sunlight on a summer day with 
no shade. Maybe she is walking down a highway in the desert with 
the Friend by her side playing his bass guitar, playing her the The 
Grateful Dead, and all of those other rock bands she had never 
heard of before. 

And listening to the thrumming, she begins to dream, to see. 
She is younger, too small to reach the counter, but big enough to sit on the 
couch with Allen in her lap. Her hair is in its ponytail, as she has worn it 
for years, except for yearbook pictures and trips to see grandparents. Allen 
holds the thin rope of hair in one fat baby fist. They are supposed to be 
watching television, but they cannot because their parents are fighting. Her 
mother's voice rings shrill against the kitchen tiling and she can hear a slam, 
like a door thrown closed on a windy day, except it is their father throwing 
the door closed and no wind. Marian feels her brother's warm, smothering 



J^e^^C-Utj 19 



body against her own. Her head throbs. WTien her father reappears, it is 
through the front door and not the kitchen door. He stands before her, 
eyes glassy, face red. He's saying, "C'mon, champ, come with Dad. We'll 
blow this place together." His gaze shifts from her small, drawn face to the 
kitchen where her mother is crying. He is impatient. The desire to release 
Allen, leave him on the family room couch, and leave with her father rises 
in her like soda bubbles but- 

"Marian?" her mother's voice says. A square of light falls on her 
from behind- the opened front door. "Marian, what are you doing 
out here? I told you to go to your room, young lady-Marian?" She 
stops, because her daughter has turned to look at her, face bright 
with crying. "Marian, what's the matter?" 

Dazed, she looks for the strange man, the friend, the cowboy, 
but she cannot find him. The street is empty. "Mom," she says. She 
is looking at the stoop where he sat, feels the concrete. Is it still 
warm? She cannot tell. "Oh, Mom." Her voice is thick. She stands, 
puts her arms around her mother, despite herself. 



80 ^e<( 6'li^.u 






Cover Art (Top to Bottom): 
Carolanne Bonanno - T/it? Floor is Made oj 
Reda Masincup - Roses (Or Rebellion) 
Jadrienne Brown - Love Readies Out